‘Pontifical secret’ in abuse cases needs review, advisers tell pope



ROME – Members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors believe they have done important work over the past three years, but, because there is so much more to be done, they presented Pope Francis with a list of suggestions, including changing the way confidentiality is imposed during church investigations of child sexual abuse.

Pope Francis had his first face-to-face discussion with commission members Sept. 21 and, during the meeting, members summarized the work they have accomplished and detailed a number of recommendations, including regarding the invocation of “pontifical secret” during abuse investigations and trials.

Vatican norms maintain the imposition of “pontifical secret” on the church’s judicial handling of clerical sex abuse and other grave crimes, which means they are dealt with in strict confidentiality.

Vatican experts have said it was designed to protect the dignity of everyone involved, including the victim, the accused, their families and their communities. Confidentiality, however, is meant to have limits in the relationship with civil authorities as bishops are required to comply with civil law that requires reporting of abuse accusations.

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